Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I love Iowahawk.

Damning Self With Faint Praise

From The Hill:

Richardson claims first place among second-tier candidates

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said yesterday that he is “alone” on the second tier of Democratic presidential candidates, claiming a solid lead over his closest rivals — Sens. Joseph Biden (Del.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.).

“We’ve moved into a solid fourth,” Richardson told reporters.

Speaking at the Latino Leaders Luncheon Series, Richardson told the crowd he had moved from registering 1 percent in polls up to 8 percent since getting in the race in late January, putting him in fourth place in the contest, behind Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Barack Obama (Ill.) and ex-Sen. John Edwards (N.C.).

You're out in front of Slow Joe and Chris Dodd. Congrats. Call me when you fall behind Edwards the Silky Pony, and close in on First Term and The Triangulator.

The Littlest Explained

My youngest child snuck up on me unawares. The Dear Husband and I had decided that for reasons of his health we were going to stop at the Muralist. Lo and behold the Littlest began my 9 month morning sickness only two weeks later. I have gotten quite a bit of ribbing about getting pregnant not long after Dear Husband exodused the hospital. But now I am going to blame the bulk of the responsibility on Tillamook and their unreasonably good Oregon Strawberry Ice Cream:
For a woman trying to conceive, the best prescription could be a knickerbocker glory. It might play havoc with her diet but the old-fashioned confection, made with cream and ice cream, could help her get pregnant, according to a study.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Approaching the Singularity?

I caught this on Hugh Hewitt's site.

Also look at this article from The Futurist:
One of the most popular dinner party conversation topics is the possibility that the United States will be joined or even surpassed as a superpower by another nation, such as China. China has some very smart people, a vast land area, and over four times the population of the US, so it should catch up easily, right? Let's assess the what makes a superpower, and what it would take for China to match the US on each pillar of superpowerdom.

A genuine superpower does not merely have military and political influence, but also must be at the top of the economic, scientific, and cultural pyramids. Thus, the Soviet Union was only a partial superpower, and the most recent genuine superpower before the United States was the British Empire.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Newbery Awards

David Frum paints with a broad, inaccurate brush when hrumphing agianst the Newbery award winners:
I suppose as a parent I should express shock. But actually, I have found the Newberry award a very helpful guide. My kids learned long ago that any book bearing the Newberry gold star is to be avoided like the plague. If not perverse, it will be vapid; if not politically correct, then it will be grimly didactic. We own hundreds of children's book, many contemporary - but no Newberry winners of later vintage than Johnny Tremain (1942). That saves a lot of time!

Here are my favorites since 1942:

1999: Holes by Louis Sachar

1986: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

1985: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

1979: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Dutton)

1978: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

1963: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

1949: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

Granted there are some lean years in there but I think it a fallacy to call the above titles vapid, perverse, politically correct; possibly didactic, but grimly so? Shouldn't we look to literature to teach us something? When did a book with a moral become something to be upset about? Frum needs to loosen his corset strings before he faints of the vapors.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dollar Coins

Have you seen the new dollar coin the Mint is rolling out? The presidential depictions have an unfortuneate zombie aspect to them. John Miller at NRO says:
So the new $1 coins, featuring America's presidents much as recent quarters have featured the states, are about to roll out. The U.S. Mint has tried before to persuade Americans to abandon their paper dollars for coins. The two previous efforts, however, surrendered to feminist demands that the $1 coin feature a woman rather than a man. The Susan B. Anthony dollar failed in large part because it looked and felt too much like a quarter. The Sacajawea dollar, however, looked and felt nothing like a quarter. Yet it flopped as well. Was it because of a poorly chosen symbol? I have no idea. It may be that Americans are just too attached to their dollars bills, even though they are one of the least valuable forms of paper currency in the world. We'll see. For my part, I would have preferred a Reagan dollar.

The dollar coin flops because it is heavy. How many people have bought a book of stamps at a kiosk and cursed the plethora of dollar coins which the machine has spat at them? They weigh down your pocket or pocketbook. They cross the threshold of being valuable enough that you'd care if they rolled under the vending machine.

Still one more thing to take into account, cash register drawers. Cashiers go though more ones than any other denomination and to accomodate dollar coins cash register drawers would need to be significantly changed. That hasn't happened yet.

Linked at Basil's.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


have you seen Ice Age? It's an animated animal quest with Ray Romano as a pessimistic Wooly Mammoth and John Leguizamo as a comic, ladies lovin' sloth. The kids loved it, especially the burping jokes. If you were to take Ice Age as a guideline what movie would you recommend to my children? Flushed Away? Land Before Time? Ice Age 2: The Meltdown? No?

How about Independence Day?
On July 2nd, communications systems worldwide are sent into chaos by a strange atmospheric interference. It is soon learned by the military that a number of enormous objects are on a collision course with Earth. At first thought to be meteors, they are later revealed to be gigantic spacecraft, piloted by a mysterious alien species. After attempts to communicate with the aliens go nowhere, David Levinson, an ex-scientist turned cable technician, discovers that the aliens are going to attack major points around the globe in less than a day. On July 3rd, the aliens all but obliterate New York, Los Angeles, and Washington. The survivors set out in convoys towards Area 51, a strange government testing ground where it is rumored the military has a captured alien spacecraft of their own. The survivors devise a plan to fight back against the enslaving aliens, and July 4th becomes the day humanity will fight for its freedom. July 4th is their Independence Day.
Oh yeah! Thanks Netflix! I'd have never dreamed showing this to my four year old without you!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lady Friday

The newest in the Keys of the Kingdom series will be out March 1. Whoo hoo! Says Nix:
The first real copy of Lady Friday (The Keys To The Kingdom) just arrived at my office. I never know whether the US, British or Australian advance copies will arrive first. This time the Aussie edition is the early bird.

I've been writing for 24 years and my first book (The Ragwitch) came out in 1991, but I still get excited when a new book of mine arrives. There is nothing quite like the real article, though galleys, bound proofs or advance reading copies are also welcome harbingers of impending publication.

This is my 21st book (I think) or 25th (if you count the tiny VERY CLEVER BABY books which may one day make a reappearance) and as always I wonder how I managed to finish it and also how on earth have I managed to write so many books. The answer, is of course, that it's taken almost a quarter of a century of constant work. Even so, I am still pleasantly surprised. I'm also greatly relieved that I started young :-)

In other news, I am delighted to have sold a story to Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling for their forthcoming fairy tale villains anthology which is yet to find a title, I believe. My story is called "An Unwelcome Guest" and is a sideways look at the Rapunzel story.

I also have quite a long story -- almost a novelette -- coming up in
Wizards: Magical Tales From the Masters of Modern Fantasy , edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. There are some great contributors in this and I'm happy to be one of them. My piece for this anthology is called 'Holly and Iron' and is kind of a Robin Hood story. Only Robin is a girl and it takes places in an alternative Ingland shortly after that country's conquest by Normans and their iron magic. Which like nearly all summaries of stories sounds dumb and boring . . . the real story is much more interesting, I assure you!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Condecending, Ungrateful Cluelessness

I was going to share a quick amusing anecdote from the kids this morning, I will later, before I could type it out I made the mistake of reading some news and opinion. So, so, so. First a little background. Here's the video which started his out:

It is some soldiers from Fort Lewis saying that supporting the troops means more than lipservice and it's imperative that Americans back home support the mission even if they don't support specific policy. In other words, you have to want us to win to support the troops. OK?

Along comes William Arkin, activist turned writer for the WaPo who writes:
I'm all for everyone expressing their opinion, even those who wear the uniform of the United States Army. But I also hope that military commanders took the soldiers aside after the story and explained to them why it wasn't for them to disapprove of the American people.

The condesention of that made my mouth drop open and I just about left the article there. It's not for them to disapprove?! Last I looked these soldiers were citizens too Mr. Arkin, not subjugated lackeys who dare not have a differing opinion without reprisals.

These soldiers should be grateful that the American public, which by all polls overwhelmingly disapproves of the Iraq war and the President's handling of it, do still offer their support to them, and their respect.

Through every Abu Ghraib and Haditha, through every rape and murder, the American public has indulged those in uniform, accepting that the incidents were the product of bad apples or even of some administration or command order.

Sure, it is the junior enlisted men who go to jail. But even at anti-war protests, the focus is firmly on the White House and the policy. We don't see very many "baby killer" epithets being thrown around these days, no one in uniform is being spit upon.

Oh yes, how lucky you are that you are not being spit on. Instead you get death threats while you are recovering in the hospital or spat at by idiots spraying graffiti on the Capital Building.

I could go on but I am too angry. Instead I will let the inestimable Lileks answer for me because he is not going to decend into profanity the way I want to. Arkin is italicized.
So, we pay the soldiers a decent wage, take care of their families, provide them with housing and medical care and vast social support systems and ship obscene amenities into the war zone for them, we support them in every possible way, and their attitude is that we should in addition roll over and play dead, defer to the military and the generals and let them fight their war, and give up our rights and responsibilities to speak up because they are above society?

As for the obscene amenities, I recall putting together that package to send to the troops a month ago. Foot and hand warmers were requested. I realize now they were just stockpiling those things in case the fancy propane-fired boots run low, and the fur-lined Gucci gloves get swiped by the locals. Fine. I heard the other day that some bases have fast-food outlets. They have a Subway stand. And you can just walk to it. Me, I have to drive. And find a parking place. And they don’t give stamps anymore. I suspect the Subway stand in Iraq gives stamps. Right now I’d imagine there’s some guy who’s paid a decent wage whose family back home in a nice house with freshly painted cinder block walls is sitting in his bunk (with a blanket he got for free, no doubt) licking the stamps that bring him ever closer to a free six incher. With meatballs. And he has the nerve to have an opinion about other people’s opinions.

No, that’s not fair; he’s entitled to his opinion. But it’s another thing to express it. It’s almost as if the actual troops think they have some sort of absolute moral authority to have an opinion, and this gives them the right to express themselves without considering the impact that might have on people who disagree. They do have a moral authority, but only when they’re killed, and it transfers immediately to the closest relative who disagreed with the mission.

Yeah as for the obcene amenities being enjoyed by my brother in law right now? An extra footlocker. Extra two feet of storage and a single beer on a sqad mate's birthday. Watchout! They might demand cake next. A little bit later:

The coup de gracelessness occurs in the next paragraph:

But it is the United States and instead this NBC report is just an ugly reminder of the price we pay for a mercenary - oops sorry, volunteer - force that thinks it is doing the dirty work.

Oops, indeed. That just slipped out. He temporarily forgot the patriotism that motivates many, and provides a definitional difference between mercs and volunteer soldiers, but thank God he caught himself in time. As for that dirty work, it is best understood in terms of soiled linen, which wives are ALWAYS complaining about. We don’t do the laundry, we don’t do it right, we mix the bloody clothes with the silk shirts, et cetera:

The notion of dirty work is that, like laundry, it is something that has to be done but no one else wants to do it. But Iraq is not dirty work: it is not some necessary endeavor; the people just don't believe that anymore.
I'll accept that the soldiers, in order to soldier on, have to believe that they are manning the parapet, and that's where their frustrations come in. I'll accept as well that they are young and naïve and are frustrated with their own lack of progress and the never changing situation in Iraq. Cut off from society and constantly told that everyone supports them, no wonder the debate back home confuses them.

Dear lambs, confused by Robust Debate, thinking that the big package of letters from the elementary school back home means more than last Tuesday’s editorial in the Times.